em·​bez·​zle | \im-ˈbe-zəl, em-\
embezzled; embezzling\im-​ˈbe-​z(ə-​)liŋ, em-​ \

Definition of embezzle 

transitive verb

: to appropriate (something, such as property entrusted to one's care) fraudulently to one's own use embezzled thousands of dollars

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Other Words from embezzle

embezzlement \im-​ˈbe-​zəl-​mənt, em-​ \ noun
embezzler \im-​ˈbe-​z(ə-​)lər, em-​ \ noun

Did You Know?

English has a lot of verbs that mean to steal - some more specific than others. "Pilfer," "purloin," "rob," "swipe," "plunder," "filch," and "thieve" are some noted examples. "Embezzle" differs from these by stressing the improper appropriation of property to which a person is entrusted - often in the form of company funds. First appearing in English in the 15th century, embezzle derives via Middle English from the Anglo-French embesiller, meaning "to make away," formed from the prefix en- and the verb besiller, meaning "to steal or plunder." Related to "embezzle" is "bezzle," a verb used in some British English dialects to mean "to waste or plunder" or "to drink or eat to excess."

Examples of embezzle in a Sentence

He was caught embezzling money from his clients. He was convicted of embezzling.

Recent Examples on the Web

Pruden-Rivera pleaded no contest Thursday to charges of embezzling more than $100,000 from her child, the Lansing State Journal reports. Jared Gilmour, miamiherald, "Army hospital owed disabled boy $6.5 million. His mom started stealing it, Mich. cops say | Miami Herald," 17 May 2018 The money has since been invested badly, embezzled by greedy spouses, or drunk away. Ali Wentworth, Town & Country, "The Wisdom of Muffie," 7 Jan. 2013 In 2007, a previous owner of the cemeteries, Clayton Smart of Oklahoma, was arrested and pleaded guilty in Michigan to 39 felony counts for embezzling more than $60 million from the cemeteries' trust funds. J.c. Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan fund backs questionable bid for scandal-plagued cemeteries," 4 July 2018 The former comptroller of a 120-year-old San Antonio company that makes locks and other detention equipment for prisons and jails has been charged with fraud and tax evasion for allegedly embezzling about $1.4 million. Guillermo Contreras, San Antonio Express-News, "Ex-worker of 120-year-old S.A. company accused of stealing $1.4 million," 24 May 2018 Spellman met Murphy in prison while serving 10 years for embezzling from Chester Township. Eric Heisig, cleveland.com, "Former Chester Township clerk who embezzled millions going back to prison for marijuana trafficking," 8 May 2018 Malawi’s worst corruption scandal erupted in 2013, when investigators concluded that almost a third of state funds were being embezzled. Michael Cohen, Bloomberg.com, "Malawi Leader Defends Anti-Graft Record After Ally's Rebuke," 28 June 2018 The case centered on accusations that Urdangarin embezzled about 6 million euros ($7 million) in public funds. Fox News, "Spanish King's brother-in-law facing five years in jail after court upholds fraud conviction," 13 June 2018 That lucrative contract is among several that are part of an ongoing probe by Haitian investigative judges into allegations that former Haitian government officials and heads of private firms embezzled $2 billion in Venezuelan oil loans. Jacqueline Charles, miamiherald, "Dominican senator accused of ripping off Haiti sanctioned by Trump administration," 12 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'embezzle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of embezzle

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for embezzle

Middle English embesilen, from Anglo-French embesiller to make away with, from en- + besiller to steal, plunder

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Statistics for embezzle

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for embezzle

The first known use of embezzle was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for embezzle



English Language Learners Definition of embezzle

: to steal money that you have been trusted with


em·​bez·​zle | \im-ˈbe-zəl \
embezzled; embezzling

Kids Definition of embezzle

: to steal (money or property) despite being entrusted to take care of it The banker embezzled money from his customers.


transitive verb
em·​bez·​zle | \im-ˈbe-zəl \
embezzled; embezzling

Legal Definition of embezzle 

: to convert (property entrusted to one's care) fraudulently to one's own use — compare defalcate

Other Words from embezzle

embezzlement noun
embezzler noun

History and Etymology for embezzle

Anglo-French embeseiller to make away with, from en-, prefix stressing completion + beseller to snatch, misappropriate, from Old French, to destroy

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More from Merriam-Webster on embezzle

Spanish Central: Translation of embezzle

Nglish: Translation of embezzle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of embezzle for Arabic Speakers

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